Walkable downtown Lebanon stretched by $25M in development

The vintage Airstream trailer parked on Lebanon’s main thoroughfare is one sign of coming changes — and more than $25 million in development — counted on to stretch the northern limits of the city’s walkable downtown area.

“We needed to bring our project closer to downtown,” said Jim Cohen, developer of the $15 million 511 No. Broadway development.

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In addition to 511 No. Broadway, new developments - including an $8 million fire station, a new park and streetscape leading north to the new Warren County Convention Center in the county fairgrounds, are transforming this part of town.

The city will also parlay the stormwater from the two projects on the west side of Broadway Avenue into a fishing pond in the park across the avenue and down the hill.

“The construction of the regional retention pond in Colonial Park, that serves the improvements along N. Broadway corridor, has been completed. This new pond will be stocked for catch-and-release fishing in the Spring,” Lebanon City Manager Scott Brunka said in an email.

The vintage Airstream is temporary sales office for the 116 townhomes to be constructed on the rear section of the six-acre former city garage property.

Along the front of the property, Catch-a-Fire Pizza - known from originally operating from the MadTree microbrewery in Cincinnati - is expected to open a bar-restaurant in 3,500 of 12,500 square feet of retail space.

The rest of the space has yet to be leased.

“We’d love to find a good restaurant,” Cohen said.

The development will be owned by the Warren County Port Authority through a series of leases.

The new park and streetscape, and on-street parking, in front of historic Berry School lead up to the new fire station site, already well under construction and the recently completed Warren County Convention Center.

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The fire station - the first piece of a public safety complex envisioned on land purchased on what was the south side of the Warren County Fairgrounds - is to be completed next fall.

Just north on the fairgrounds, the new Warren County Convention Center is open for business.

“We’re very very optimistic about what’s happening in Lebanon right now,” Cohen, developer of 51 No. Broadway, as well as other mixed-use projects including the Marcum in Hamilton. “Since we put a hold on this thing back in April, Lebanon has kind of exploded.”

Cohen, whose company also developed the Marcum project in Hamilton in Butler County, complimented Lebanon for taking his suggestions to improve the walkability with streetscape and park features in front of the old school and “traffic calming” or “road diet” measures, including on-street parking and a designated bike lane narrowing to a single lane the section of Broadway through the area.

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“The City has received a Clean Ohio Trail Fund grant to extend the Lebanon – Countryside YMCA trail from downtown Lebanon up to the intersection of N. Broadway Ave. and Miller Rd. This will include a separate paved trail through a portion of the fairgrounds property and the Aylor-Cook nature trail behind Berry School. It will also include the extension of a dedicated bike lane on N. Broadway Ave. up to Miller Road,” Brunka added. “The goal of this project is to connect additional neighborhoods to the City’s trail system.”

This project is to be completed by next summer.

Aspiring 511 No. Broadway renters can see what their townhome will look like by stepping into the Airstream, outfitted with flooring, countertops, lighting and other finishes and “wrapped” inside to emulate the interior of one of the 116 townhomes.

Barring delays, including those related to the pandemic, Cohen said “18 months would be our hope” for completion.

“Throughout the pandemic, the City has seen continued investment in both public and private construction projects. This is a reflection of the strong business community and quality of life that Lebanon has to offer,” Brunka added.

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